Apr 19, 2014

Easter Plans

So this year, since the kids did so well with planning and implementing their St. Patrick's Day fun, I've just been kind of playing it by ear and only choosing to do what they think is important. At this point, we are just going off tradition.

Our first tradition is, of course, dying the eggs:

(weren't they little and cute?)

We dye eggs for two reasons. One, because my kids like messy creative stuff. And two, because their daddy loves boiled eggs and I know he will eat all we decorate. Well, what the kids don't eat first, of course!

Another tradition is our Easter Tea. We originally began this as an excuse to hang with the cousins, but then we moved... The kids won't let me stop having it, though!

We also read these books:

The Easter Story by Patricia Pingry

Benjamin's Box by Melody Carlson

and use the Resurrection Eggs

We have an egg hunt in our yard:

sometimes they hunt for candy eggs, sometimes for boiled eggs and sometimes for paper eggs, because really, it's the hunting part that's fun, not necessarily what we are hunting for. :)

And, of course, the kids get baskets. NOT from the bunny, but lots of fun none-the-less.

This year, we will also be doing Resurrection Rolls and Kaytie, who has recently discovered Pinterest, and is allowed to look at certain people's boards, made some Easter cards for her siblings.

Have a happy Resurrection Sunday!

Apr 15, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Curiosity Quest

What are you curious about? Since we are curious about a lot, especially science related stuff, we were thrilled to get the opportunity to review six videos from Curiosity Quest. We were sent two DVDs. DVD Combo Pack - Produce and DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea, each with three episodes on them. The Produce pack contained the Curiosity Quest episodes Mushrooms, Cranberries, and Orange Packing.

The Swimmers of the Sea contained the episodes Penguins, Sea Turtle and Salmon.

These videos are educational, yes, but they are also fun. Each episode starts with a question from a viewer. Host Joel Greene then takes us on location to aquariums, turtle hospitals, mushroom farms, cranberry farms Alaskan hatcheries, and orange packing plants to answer those questions and learn all about the topic at hand. Set up like a tv show, Joel interviews real people in unscripted adventures, exploring such things as how mushrooms are grown, how to feed a penguin, and why it is important not to harm oranges.

Scattered throughout the episodes are Fun Facts like "most of America's salmon, crab, halibut and herring come from Alaska." These facts are given by kids. It was a little funny, because when we watched the first episode and the first kid announced the first Fun Fact, Abbie looked at me and asked, "Is that true?"
Startled, I replied, "Well, of course, they wouldn't tell us something that wasn't true!"
She said, "OH! They told the kid to say that!"
Apparently she thought he was just making stuff up as he went along. :)

There are also "kid on the street" interviews where Joel asks a question and different kids give what they think is the answer. Questions like, "What do sea turtles eat?" or "What do penguins feel like?" or "What is imprinting?" or "What is mycelium?" Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong, sometimes they are just funny. After the kids have a chance to answer, the expert gives the correct answer to us, the viewing audience. The kids enjoyed this, shouting out their answers before the right one was given.

Each episode is packed full of information but it is so engaging and interesting that we all sat entranced through the entire show. The episodes run approximately 30 minutes, but it goes by quickly and the kids would have watched all three hours worth in one setting if I had let them.

We thoroughly enjoyed Curiosity Quest. Joel's enthusiasm is contagious and the experts he interviews are interesting, knowledgeable and personable. I was surprised at how much we learned about topics that I honestly would not have thought at all intriguing: mushrooms for example. But the mushrooms was actually one of the kids' favorites! My favorite, of course, was the one about penguins. How fun to be able to feed and pet a penguin! I didn't know penguins had so much personality and individuality!

The kids said:

Kaytie: I liked it because it was very fact oriented. I felt like I learned a lot since I knew nothing about that stuff except for a little bit about penguins and now I know lots. I liked the part where they asked other people questions and they gave funny answers. My favorite part was when he got to touch and hold the penguins. I would recommend it to people who really want to learn about one certain thing because there is a lot of information in each video!

Nate: I kinda thought the videos were interesting. I liked that he actually tried to get kids to answer the questions. My favorite part was the room in the mushroom video where they harvested them. That was cool.

Daniel: I liked it because it helped me know stuff and learn about how they harvest mushrooms and oranges. I like to eat mushrooms! My favorite part was when they told us how they package and sell the mushrooms.

Abbie: I liked it because there were penguins and he got to feed them! And they petted penguins, which someday I will do! I liked that the mushrooms grew so big! And what was funny about it was that Joel could only pick one or two at a time when the other guys could do three. 

Curiosity Quest is geared for kids ages 7 to 14 which seems right on to me, but as an adult, I was fascinated right along with my children. I highly recommend them because they were just fun to watch. We almost forgot we were supposed to be learning something.

The 3-episode Combo Packs are $24.95 apiece.

Read what other Crew Members think on the Crew Blog

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Apr 11, 2014

7 Random Pictures

An old picture of Kaytie with a paint-the-number multiplication page that she made. She hates math and loves art so a mixing of the two is always weird for her.

A recent picture of Daniel and Abbie at our co-op. This is their work in their Lego Challenge class.

Sofie loves to get on the back of the couch and watch the kids do school through the doorway. Usually, she is mournful, but one of them walked into the living room just before I snapped the picture.

A semi old picture of a boy and a boy's best friend.

A super old Christmas picture. It is tradition to take a picture of all the kids in front of the tree on Christmas Eve!

Abbie, or maybe it's Princess Catwoman (it's so easy to confuse the two) doing math.

And finally, an old favorite of Daniel. Daniel always seems most "him" when he is interacting with nature.

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Supercharged Science

We love science. My kids love to read, watch, and do any and all things science. I often neglect to do "formal" science, because I know they will squeeze in plenty on their own. So I always say "Yes" to any science related review we are asked to do especially when it is something we already know we love like Supercharged Science with its e-Science Program.

Supercharged eScience Review

Supercharged Science is an online program that teaches science to kids in grades K to 12 with the use of videos, experiments and step by step instruction. It was created by Aurora, a former NASA instructor with a passion for giving kids a love for science. Supercharged Science is a complete program that will teach your child science by encouraging them to do science. It teaches kids to ask questions, to explore and to discover.

Supercharged Science is packed with information, both for you and for your kids. The hard part is absorbing it all! Starting with the 18 key scientific principles, then a quick explanation of the scientific method, and an article on how to keep a science journal, this website is packed with science information. There are 20 different topics covered, from mechanics to electricity to astrophysics to sound to chemistry and more. Each topic is packed with experiments and with videos that explain and/or show the experiments. The "how" behind the experiment is always fully explained. For each unit (topic) there is a PDF lesson plan (so you can download it and/or print it if you don't want to read it online), quizzes and a shopping list for the experiments so you can easily prepare ahead of time. You can also access the topics by grade level if you prefer, although the topics can be done in any order at all. For the purpose of this review, we were given access to all the topics and grade levels, but when you purchase it, the levels are unlocked for you at the rate of one or two a month. Here is a screenshot so you can get an idea of how the units are laid out. As you can see, there is a ton of information and everything is spelled out step by step for the student. But if there is any confusion for either you or your student, each lesson has a comment box where you can ask questions or make observations and Aurora will answer them herself.

Supercharged eScience Review

Supercharged Science is so full of information that it is definitely a complete curriculum! We, however, used it as a supplement to our already full repertoire of science activities. What I did was turn my 10 and 11 year olds loose on it. They were easily able to navigate the site, read the information, watch the videos, gather the materials and perform the experiments. They each chose an experiment for me to document in this review.

Kaytie chose a physics experiment called Balloon Racers. She collected her supplies: yarn, balloons (we needed extras before we were done because we did it several times with yarn of various lengths), tape, and a straw (the scissors are not pictured because someone was playing with them during the photograph {{ahem}})

blew up the balloon

threaded the yarn through the straw

taped the straw to the balloon with the help of her handsome assisstant

and re-taped it when it fell off

taped the yarn to the wall with that handsome assistant again

and performed the experiment

Then she explained what she had learned

Nate chose to make moon sand (because little boys like to make messes)

He gathered his supplies

took his mess outside to mix and stir

and mix and stir some more

the other kids had to get their hands in the gooey mess, too!


then they played with it. Nate discovered that even though it was soft and malleable like clay when you dropped it it fell hard, like a rock. But when he threw it against the wall, it shattered!!!

As you can see, there is lots of fun to be had with Supercharged Science. Use it as a complete science, use it as a supplement, use it as an easy way to slip science experiments into your kids' day. The cost is $57 per month for grades K to 12 and $37 per month for grades K through 8. As a special deal, Aurora is offering a month trial of this program for only $1.

We love Supercharged Science because of the freedom to explore whatever topic we want. I love the fullness of the information provided. I love the videos that show how it works. The kids love that they can watch the experiments that we don't have the supplies for. And I love that Aurora provides feedback when you need it!

I love it because it teaches me science and because it is fun. I love the videos. I can learn about whatever I want.

I love it because it is science! Of course. I love watching the videos where things explode. I love doing the experiments. There isn't anything I don't like about it and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn science.

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Apr 9, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Victus Study Skills

Victus Study Skills Review
As Kaytie, who is eleven, moves out of elementary level and into middle school I am also shifting her ever more into independent learning so I was intrigued at the idea of teaching her how to study. As a homeschooled kid myself, I remember the shock of college and my study skills were hard won. Often at the expense of my grades. Since my husband and I both value a college education for our kids, I was happy to review the Victus Study Skills System
We were sent two spiral bound books: the Teacher Edition  and  The Student Workbook. The Teacher Edition is necessary because it explains not only the principles and purpose of the course, but the assignments the student is to do. The workbook is for one student only and is intended to be consumable, so you would need to purchase additional books for additional students.
There are ten lessons in the Victus Study Skills System and we aimed at doing one a day, which was longer than the suggested course plan, which is to teach the entire course in five, one hour sessions. But I decided that, since this method was totally foreign to her, that she would need more time than that to digest the material. Each lesson follows the same outline of Purpose, Preparation, and Procedure. 
The course starts with the student identifying where they currently stand in their study habits and learning strengths. Not surprisingly, Kaytie's results showed that she is a strong auditory/visual learner and not very kinesthetic at all. After that, Kaytie worked on setting study habit goals, learning about time management (a much needed skill for her!) how to organize and set up a study environment, how to work through the material using the PQRST acronym, and finally she learned the value of listening, note taking and good strategies for test taking.
 Victus Study Skills Review
Even though this course seemed aimed more at traditionally schooled kids, talking about note taking and testing, which is not at all how our school days look, I feel that Kaytie learned a lot from this course. I think that just the discussion on the importance of vision and how her attitude and choices have more to do with her success or failure made enough of an impact that this course was worth her while. That said, some of the assignments, like the scheduling, was a little bit of a stretch for her, considering her school situation and our lifestyle. I did appreciate that even though the book always spoke of "students" in the plural, the activities were something easily done with a class of one. But mostly I was pleased because, even if she never goes to college, this course has taught her important information about herself and how she learns as well as some valuable life skills that she will use in learning wherever she goes.
Kaytie says:
I liked it because it taught me how I learn. I know I need to see and hear what I want to remember. I need to take notes and I learn better in a room by myself where the noise of the other kids doesn't distract me. I would recommend this to any kid who wants to learn how to study better.
Victus Study Skills System is geared for kids in 5th through 12th grades. The Teacher Edition is $40. The Student Workbook is $20.
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Apr 5, 2014

April Fool's Day

We don't generally celebrate April Fool's Day. Mostly because I didn't want to start a momentum of pranks and tricks that could slip out of control very quickly. But this year, they were whispering and plotting amongst themselves for weeks in advance, so I thought I might as well get the jump on them. 

They woke up to find googly eyes on the milk and the cabinets. Then Nate discovered the cereals had been switched with the flour and baking powder. The girls had to hunt all over the kitchen for the silverware and when they found it, they kept the information to themselves so the boys had to hunt as well. When they went to get dressed, they discovered that their underwear drawers had been swapped in the night while they slept. 

They tried not to show it, but these pranks amused and inspired them. There was some "Hey, look! There's a bug in your hair!" tomfoolery during school. And Abbie... She Who Looks So Sweet and Innocent... Abbie gave me a card.

The kids, especially the girls, give me cards and pictures all the time, so I was expecting something sweet. However, this is what it said inside...

Daniel passed out a few blank cards. Late in the day, I discovered that Nate had sneaked into mine and Daddy's closets and swapped them out. It was all quite silly and fun.

But Daddy had the best one. He came home and regretfully announced that he had left their April Fool's prank at work. He had made a plateful of brown E's for them then accidently forgot them. When he came home from work on the 2nd, they pounced upon him eagerly, "Did you remember our April Fool's?!?"

He hadn't, but they would not accept his evasions and kept asking and asking, so he finally told them to go look in the pocket of his computer case. They explored it with alacrity, but there was nothing in it. When they looked at him with puzzled faces, he gleefully cried, "April Fools!!!"

They did ask for it.


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